Monday, April 30, 2012

Specific vs. Pacific

Alright people, we need to have a talk. The word is 'specific,' not 'Pacific.' (Unless you mean Pacific, of course, then the word is ‘Pacific,’ not ‘specific.’) The easiest way to remember the difference between these two words is there is an 's' in the word 'specific.' And that's just the easiest way!

A further investigation will reveal that the word 'specific' actually means:

While you'll find that the word 'Pacific' is not just a word, but a proper noun and the name of the largest ocean on the planet!

To further drive home the difference between the two words I'll use them in a sentence!

Example: When discussing the Pacific Ocean I'm talking about a specific ocean.

See what I did there? Good. Because the next time you say ‘Pacific’ when you clearly mean ‘specific’ I’m going throw a large, heavy object aimed specifically at your head.

And don't hand me this crap about it being a charming regional pronunciation, because it is not. It is a mispronunciation that ought to have been phased out by the third grade.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Cold Turkey Project: Twitter

One of my favorite people on the internet—and that is a bit of a distinction, fyi, since the internet is unfathomably and intangibly huge, is Mark Malkoff. He's a writer and comedian, and generally seems to be a nice guy. He takes on quirky challenges like conquering his fear of flying by living on an AirTran jet for thirty days, soliciting invitations and staying overnight with celebrities, visiting every Starbucks in Manhattan, and (at this very moment) watching 400 hours of streamed movies from Netflix in a month. His life’s like Jackass without the multiple trips to the ER or the contingent of dumbasses who’ve seemingly proved Darwin was wrong.

Oh, and you probably won’t see this guy commandeering a shopping cart for the purpose of violently colliding it into things.

I could be wrong. Am I wrong Mark?

Anyway, the reason why I bring him up is that despite the fact that these challenges seem to be all fun and games, they still require a fair bit of discipline and sacrifice. It can't all be sleepovers with this guy:

Example: Mark attempted to be carried from the most southerly point of Manhattan to the most northerly by city dwellers and tourists. Due to a few factors he was not able to make it the whole way, but the effort was still admirable. Braving poor weather conditions, physical discomfort, and probably a slew of communicable diseases, when all was said and done Mark was in a quite a bit of pain. You've got to figure being slung over shoulders, dangled by limbs, and damn near dragged down the sidewalk was going to result in some muscle fatigue and tenderness. Still it seems as though lessons were learned, laughs were had, and blogs were posted.

The aforementioned themes of discipline and sacrifice have inspired me to explore a challenge my own challenges—specifically in the form of tackling some pretty bad habits I've developed. I sat down and made a list of things I thought I could or should change. Could and should didn't always overlap, which was the first revelation. The second revelation was that some of these habits I really didn't want to change. God knows I love most of the things I came up with! I love my wine, eating out, cursing, sitting on my ass, tweeting my inner monologue with reckless abandon, staying up late, and sleeping in for as long as I feel like it—and that’s just to name a few. Changing some of those things, if not all of them, would be exceptionally challenging—and there it was, the third revelation: The things I didn't want to change were probably the things I needed to change the most.

To my thinking, it’ll be a little bit like Lent, only without the feigned religious observation.

Because Jesus is really impressed you gave up soda for forty days.

The first thing I'm giving up is going to be pretty tough for me: Twitter. If you know me, you'll know how hard this is going to be for me.

 I can quit any time I want—I just don't want to.

I love Twitter. I tweet all the time—it's like my own reality show/standup comedy special/platform from which I can tirade and rage to my heart's content. And trust me, I know how self involved and delusional that sounds, it does not escape me. But then not too long ago I went on and on about a subject for the duration of the day. My Twitterfeed functioned like a chat window, every time I had a follow up thought, BAM, tweeted. I knew I was going overboard, yet I didn't stop. Eventually my friend Amanda took me aside via direct message (which is a private message for those who aren't on Twitter,) and she expressed that while she understood I was passionate about what I had to say, my commentary had pretty much filled up her entire timeline that day. That was my first sign that I needed to pull back, and though I understood her advice and appreciated it, it obviously didn't stick. I went back to excessively tweeting.

The second sign came from a harmless ribbing from my friend Jack. He made a joke about my nearly 32,000 tweets and I laughed it off. But then I actually started really examining things: 32K—that's anywhere from 12-20K more than a majority of my friends. I thought, "Well yes, that's a lot more, but I've been on Twitter since April 2009, when it was just Ashton Kutcher and a couple million nerds. Most of my friends didn’t even have Twitter back then.”

100 million of those users are spam bots.

Denial—it’s not just a word that can be used with homonym-like humor in order to illustrate a lack of acceptance—I had it bad. As I went back and counted how often I tweeted in 24 hour periods I was shocked. I can equate it to how you might feel when you count up how many days you’ve shaved off your life by mindlessly consuming a plate of chicken and broccoli pasta at Ruby Tuesday’s.

This will set you back 2060 calories and 128 grams of fat. We won’t even talk about salt content.
And no, I'm not kidding.

I was tweeting 90, 100, even 120 tweets in a day—and that was just when I was bored. If I was on a tear about something, the numbers spiked well beyond that.

Jack, in his teasing, had a legitimate point, as did my friend Amanda: This was excessive. And it wasn't out of being butthurt (read: childishly pissed off,) that I decided that this cycle of oversharing needed to stop. It was out of a real honest to Oprah reality check and having the realization that enough was enough. Not everyone needed to know what I was thinking when I was thinking it, even if it could be funny or thought provoking—which I'd like to think I can be.

My friend Renata recently took a sabbatical from Twitter. For a month she stayed away from the social media platform. When she took her break she endured some good natured teasing from friends—sorry about that Renata—who couldn't get their heads around why anyone would do such a thing. Now that I'm trying this thing I’m already starting to understand.

Today is day one. Last night at about 12:02am I tweeted Proverbs 17:28 ("Even a fool is thought wise if he keeps silent, and discerning if he holds his tongue,") and indicated I had accepted the challenge of staying off Twitter in all its forms for a period of nine days. Last night nine days seemed like a long time—my God, I'm having a party next Friday, I might want to post inside jokes and hilarious pictures on Twitter about it! People won’t know I throw a great party, make great food, and have awesome friends if I don’t tweet pictures and put out a running commentary! I can't NOT tweet during the party! In the daylight though I've begun to think that maybe nine days was selling me short. I bet I could be stronger than that. In that spirit I've resolved to wait until my trip to Philadelphia with some friends, which is taking place in three weeks.

Even in the few hours that I've been up and had enough coffee to form a coherent statement I've found myself mentally forming the words I would have otherwise tweeted. I've tried writing them down so I can look back and see if they were of any value. Already I know the answer would be no. Still, Twitter has become such a natural thing to engage in that I've actually caught myself going to click on links that would lead to Twitter or my fingers playing over the keys, ready to type in the address before I remember, 'No, I'm not doing that.'

I'm not just doing this out of a desire to conquer a challenge or to gain/demonstrate some discipline by sacrificing doing something I enjoy. My friend Andrew jokes with me about Twitter addiction and I tell him to fuck off. (No, seriously, I do.) Sometimes I think he's right though—there's a compulsion to share. I want to get beyond that compulsion.

I do want to take a minute to defend my drug of choice: Not all tweeting is inane.

Although don't get me wrong, that goes on quite a bit. My tweeting varies from expounding on the number of lives that have been spared by not acting on my impulse to kill the idiots I encounter on a daily basis, to making fun of/participating in internet dating, to live-tweeting particularly hilarious events like going to bars or attending concerts and parties. And then there's everything else I seem to talk about. I found myself making the excuse that if people weren't interested in what I had to say, they'd just unfollow me, but I realized again this was just another form of denial. And what's more, I didn't want people rolling their eyes whenever they saw I tweeted, the way I do when I see a few of my friends repeatedly post on their obsessions.

I want what I have to say mean something. I want people to read a tweet and appreciate the humor or the intelligence behind it. I don't want to have everything I say become white noise because I've tweeted so many times that people just pass over my tweets due to oversaturation. And maybe I'll discover that what I have to say doesn't matter, even if it is funny or smart. Who knows!

Twitter can matter though. Revolutions have been staged with the help of social media. Friends have been made by meeting people with similar interests and attitudes. Businesses have had to create whole new approaches where internet presence and customer outreach is concerned. People have indulged their inner voyeur by being entertained by the daily fortunes and misfortunes of others. Twitter is a powerful tool that can connect people in all sorts of ways.

So Twitter: I love you, but for both our sakes I've got to spend some time away from you. I've turned off all email notifications, deleted the Twitter app from my smartphone, and I've taken what I think is the final step in cementing my commitment: I've shared it with others. My goal: To make it to May 17th without tweeting a single thought, be it profound or frivolous. I'll be documenting this experience through this blog, though I promise not to over-blog this topic. That would be kind of defeating the purpose of this whole exercise, wouldn’t it?